Nothing brightens a dreary workday like a thoughtfully packed lunch. If I've got something delicious or unusual waiting in the fridge, the whole morning seems special. Unfortunately, few people treat themselves to a healthy, exciting, substantial midday meal. (Teachers must be the worst—if they get a lunch break at all, they spend it making copies and responding to email, and inhale a yogurt as the kids come in from recess.) Packing lunch is a simple chore, but taking a few moments to enjoy something flavorful, colorful, and fun will replenish your energy and make you feel human again, no matter how wild your morning.
I recently purchased a 3-tier tiffin from To-Go Ware. Unbuckling and unstacking the metal layers is a sensory event, a visual and tactile experience superior to popping open a tupperware or plastic bag. Having several small, compact containers allows me to enjoy a variety of flavors, textures, and colors.
Though I pack my tiffins slightly differently each day (I need variety), my general guidelines are as follows:
•Bottom layer: bean and/or grain salad, usually the protein source and heaviest part of the meal
•Middle layer: raw fruit or veggies
•Top layer: dip (in the 2-ounce sidekick container), nuts, some kind of sweet
There are endless possibilities, so this setup never gets old.
Chickpea salad on quinoa, celery sticks, clementines, and homemade cinnamon-almond butter.
Since metal tiffins can't be microwaved, I pack foods that can be eaten cold or at room temperature. This tangy Italian-inspired chickpea salad comes together in five minutes, and it packs a lot of protein and flavor. When I'm out of chickpeas, I use lentils and it's just as tasty.
Quickpea Chickpea Salad2 cups cooked (or canned) chickpeas
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 small carrot, grated
chopped herbs, dried or fresh (basil and parsley are nice)
freshly ground black pepper (lots) Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust flavors. Serve over cooked grains (try quinoa for added protein) or salad greens. Serves 2.
Tiffins' fun to cost ratio is out of this world, and I suggest you treat yourself to a set, but even if you're working with tupperware and brown bags, pack something that brings you energy and joy.
What are your favorite packed-lunch foods?